Your First 30 Days as a New Manager: Three Simple Things You Need to Do

Shockingly, the vast majority of managers receive no formal training on how to manage people before they are given the role. In fact, the number is as high as 82% in the UK according to a survey last year from CMI.

Are you one of those 82%? I certainly was when I was given my first manager role 16 years ago.

Fortunately, getting off to a good start isn’t actually that complicated. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it’s easy! But it’s certainly possible to hit the ground running if you have the right frameworks and support.

Below is a very simple framework that shows you how to focus within the first 30 days of being a new manager.

Even if you’re an experienced manager, the steps below can be used for those times when you take on a new team member.

Let’s dive in.

Be curious (remember, it’s not about you)

Your first job is to get to know your new team and whilst this may sound obvious, you should try to make a conscious effort to be curious when speaking to them. This means that you don’t just reel off a list of questions and note down the answers. It means that you listen carefully and ask more questions based on what you hear. 

Having said that, you should have at least a few questions lined up to help guide a conversation, especially if a team member isn’t particularly talkative or perhaps a little nervous – remember, this is a new change for them too!

Here are a few starting points that you could use:

  • Tell me about your career so far and how you ended up in your current role.
  • What made you decide to enter this industry?
  • What have you enjoyed working on recently?
  • What projects are you working on at the moment?
  • What does success look like for you on a personal level?

But again, don’t just go through these questions like a checklist. Listen and be prepared to follow up on the answers, allowing the conversation to go in whatever direction seems right.

Remember, it’s not about you, at least now right away! So avoid questions that get them to talk directly or indirectly about you, such as what they look for in a good manager or focusing too much on how you do things. There will be time for that later.

Listen more than you speak

Leading on from the point above, it’s worth being explicit about this one – aim to listen far more than you speak. It’s super easy to dominate conversations, especially if you’re nervous and your team member isn’t talkative on their own.

Not only does listening more than speaking allow you to get to know someone, but there is a hidden benefit to it as well: you’ll build trust very quickly.

Letting someone talk, especially about themselves, is one of the most effective ways to build trust with someone. 

Use your one-on-one time effectively

Regular readers will know that I see the one-on-one meeting as one of the most powerful tools that a manager can use. So when it comes to being a new manager, it’s one thing that I think is most important to get right straight away.

In practical terms, this means doing the following.

Tell your team member what to expect

It’s important to give your team a heads up that you’ll be scheduling these meetings, especially before you go ahead and book them into the calendar. 

Many people, especially junior/less experienced people, get very nervous and anxious when a senior person books time into their calendar and doesn’t tell them what it’s about in advance. So make sure that you tell them before you do this.

When you do speak to them, give them a heads up on:

  • How often one-on-one meetings will happen.
  • How each type of one-on-one meeting will differ in terms of focus and time.
  • What the goals of each one is and the value they will get from them.

Remember, this will probably feel a bit new to your team member, even if they’ve experienced similar processes before with other managers. So take the time to explain this clearly and answer any questions they may have.

Schedule the meetings

Next, schedule the meetings in the calendar and set them up as recurring meetings so that they are booked in for the foreseeable future. 

This helps prevent them being missed or forgotten about which can easily happen when you both become busy.

Prepare for them

This should go without saying, but I’ve seen far too many managers go from meeting to meeting and fail to prepare. 

Not only does this lead to less efficient and effective meetings, but it also sets the wrong example for your team. They will be able to tell if you haven’t prepared effectively for a meeting and you’ll be implicitly setting a bar for acceptable standards – that they also don’t need to prepare for meetings.

Don’t cancel them

Finally, try to avoid cancelling one-on-one meetings whenever possible. Of course, you’ll have standard things such as annual leave and sickness that will happen sometimes. But apart from that, try to avoid cancelling them because these meetings are important – you need to show that they are important. 

Of course, life happens and occasionally, you may have no other choice but to cancel a one-on-one meeting. But when this happens, rearrange it immediately and find a time as close as possible to the original time.

This is particularly important for one-on-one meetings that are focused on formal reviews, such as quarterly or annual reviews where you focus heavily on someone’s career development. 

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